Intech Studio is a relatively young Hungary-based company, founded by two electronic musicians who wanted to create a quality modular MIDI controller system that was both affordable and versatile. I kept an eye on these controllers since the original crowdfunding campaign, as they looked quite innovative. Finally, a few months ago I pulled the trigger and ordered a couple of them, so this is my Intech Studio Grid review…
Welcome To The… Grid
About three years ago, Intech launched their first controllers on the market under the name Grid.
The Grid family is a modular MIDI controller (USB class compliant) system that can be used for a variety of tasks, including controlling synthesizers, DAWs, and visual art.
So, where’s the innovation you might wonder? Well, the Grid controllers are made up of individual 106mm x 106mm, eurorack-sized modules that can be connected together, thanks to gold-plated magnets and spring-loaded connector pins, to create a custom controller layout. Snap, snap, done!
On top of that, each module has a USB-C connector, but as there’s no main or brain module, so you can power up to 12 modules just using a single USB-C cable!
Every control on the modules (buttons, faders, etc.) can be programmed to send MIDI messages. The Grid controllers come with a powerful software editor that can be used to create and edit custom layouts (more on this later).
Build Quality And Hands-On Experience
The Intech Studio Grid controllers are definitely well-built and exceeded my expectations in terms of build quality. The sturdy module front panels are made of aluminum and have a matte black finish. The controls are responsive and feel good to use. If you’re used to mass-produced compact controllers (from the decent ones by Korg and Akai, to the even cheaper no-name stuff) you’ll appreciate the higher quality offered by Intech with their Grid controllers.
Intech offer also a 3D module stand, which supports both 35 or 55-degree angle usage, depending on how you rotate it. I got two for my two modules and they certainly helped make my controller setup easier and more inviting to use. If you are into 3D printing, you can also print the model yourself (courtesy of Intech), and just buy the accessory hardware set, with rubber feet, magnets and screws.
Interaction with monome and norns
One of the reasons behind my decision to get into the Grid world is the fact these Intech controllers can also be used to control the inspiring monome/norns scripts. Take for instance a cool script like Sines, an FM sine drone synth. The PO16 module, with its 16 customizable potentiometers, allows you to have tactile control over the 16 frequencies of this drone synth. And this is just a straightforward use case. Adding other modules, such as the EF44 I own or others, there’s a world of possibilities.
As you can see in the picture below, norns (shield in this case) powers both the monome and Grid modules.
Grid Editor Software
To make the most of the Grid controllers, you will need to install the Grid Editor software. The Grid Editor software is freely available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
The Grid Editor software has a number of features that make it a highly valuable tool for electronic musicians, such as:
The ability to create custom layouts for the Intech Grid controllers
The ability to assign buttons to different MIDI messages
The ability to create custom scripts for the Intech Grid controllers
The ability to export your layouts and scripts to a variety of formats
Just to give you an idea of what you can do with the editor and how versatile these controllers are, let’s take the PO16. It’s made of 16 potentiometers, right? Well, yes, but with the editor you can see that the right number is actually 16 * 4, as there are actually 4 different “scenes” (or pages if you like), for each controller. This means that on the PO16 you have 16 * 4 = 64 different MIDI parameters you can assign, and you can switch from one scene to another just by pressing a button at the bottom of each unit. Cool, right?
Now, I have to say that while the editor is certainly very capable, it’s not exactly the most intuitive piece of software I ever used.
While it’s true that you can edit your configurations with drag-and-drop action blocks, the whole interface can be intimidating for beginners/intermediate users. Things like conditions, event timers, or other actions for advanced workflow improvements require a developer-kind of mentality.
If you are that kind of nerd/musician, you’ll feel at home. Other users might want to limit themselves to more basic usage of the platform.
That said, the Intech Studio team is constantly improving the editor’s features, and they recently introduced an interesting profile-sharing feature.
You can find a short walkthrough here and a video overview below:
Intech Studio Grid Review – Final Thoughts
The Intech Grid controllers are an incredibly versatile and powerful tool for electronic musicians and music producers. They are well-suited for live performance as well as for the studio, as they can be easily customized to control instruments, effects, DAWs, monome norns scripts, etc.
They are not as cheap as some mass-produced MIDI controllers on the market (they start from 119 EUR up to approx. 200), but their build quality, modular approach, and customization options put them on a whole different level. Last but not least, they are more affordable than some niche controllers I’ve seen around the web, such as the hard-to-find 16n.
Wrapping up my Intech Studio Grid review, I’m truly enjoying my two modules and I have a feeling I will add some more soon. I also look forward to digging deeper into the Grid editor’s sea of possibilities. It takes some effort but it’s worth it.
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